Decision on Professor Seth Lloyd

December 18, 2020
Martin A. Schmidt, Provost, 2014–2022 |

To the members of the MIT community,

Following the Goodwin Procter report on MIT’s interactions with Jeffrey Epstein, President Reif asked that I create a process to review its findings about Professor Seth Lloyd and to identify any appropriate action. I created a two-part review and decision-making process with two faculty committees: one to review facts and determine, based on those facts, whether Professor Lloyd violated any MIT policy, and the second to recommend disciplinary action, if necessary. I write today to share the results of this intensive two-stage effort and the decision I have reached.

Before I begin, I would like to emphasize that I am taking the unusual step of sharing this information with our entire community because of the unique public nature of the case and its impacts. Professor Lloyd knows that I am taking this step, and he understands and accepts that the outcome of this disciplinary process should be shared openly.

The Review Panel

I assembled a panel of five senior faculty leaders from across the Institute and asked them to determine if Professor Lloyd violated MIT policies. The members of the panel were Professor Rohan Abeyaratne, Institute Professor Daron Acemoglu, Institute Professor Penny Chisholm, Materials Science and Engineering Department Head Jeffrey Grossman, and Dean of Science Nergis Mavalvala (chair). The panel members reviewed the Goodwin report as well as other documents they deemed relevant and met with a number of individuals, including the Goodwin fact-finders and Professor Lloyd, several times. 

Based on this review, a majority of the members found that, in connection with donations he received from Epstein in 2012, Professor Lloyd violated MIT’s conflict of interest policy (Policies & Procedures 4.4) by failing to inform MIT that Epstein was a convicted sex offender and that, in doing so, he violated MIT’s policy on faculty misconduct (Policies & Procedures 3.4.2). A minority of the members could not conclude one way or the other that his actions violated the conflict of interest policy.

The full panel further determined that he did not violate any MIT policies in accepting a gift from Epstein in 2005–2006 and a donation in 2017. The panel members did not find that Professor Lloyd tried to circumvent the MIT vetting process nor that he sought to conceal the name of the donor. They did conclude, however, that he failed to reveal crucial information about Epstein’s background to anyone at MIT.

The Evaluation Committee

The panel submitted its findings to a separate evaluation committee consisting of Dean of Engineering Anantha Chandrakasan, Mechanical Engineering Department Head Evelyn Wang, Physics Department Head Peter Fisher, Mechanical Engineering Associate Department Head Pierre Lermusiaux, and Faculty Chair Rick Danheiser. The evaluation committee convened several times, including meetings with the review panel members and with Professor Lloyd. Based on the panel’s conclusions, the evaluation committee recommended a set of disciplinary actions, which they stated "focused on Professor Lloyd’s poor judgment and the impact of his actions on the community, which he may not have yet fully appreciated."

My Decision

After conferring with senior administrative and faculty leaders, as well as the two committees, I have decided to implement the recommended disciplinary actions.

For a period of five years, a set of disciplinary actions will limit Professor Lloyd’s compensation, his ability to engage in solicitation of donors and foundations, and his involvement in first-year undergraduate advising, and will impose several other restrictions on normal privileges accorded to a faculty member. In addition, Professor Lloyd will be expected to undergo training on professional conduct before resuming certain activities on campus, including teaching.

These steps cannot undo the harm done. Professor Lloyd’s failure to share what he knew about Epstein’s conviction when he accepted his 2012 donations was unacceptable. His interactions with Epstein and certain of his actions surrounding acceptance of the donations serve to highlight the importance of the current Institute-wide effort to develop clearer guidelines for engaging with donors.

I recognize that many in our community remain deeply disturbed by the interactions with Jeffrey Epstein and that some will be disappointed by this decision. In addition, for some, this outcome may renew past pain. If you feel you would benefit from support or guidance at this time, you can find a range of resources here.

I would like to close by extending my gratitude to the entire MIT community for your engagement, your candor, and your care for MIT.


Martin A. Schmidt